Can You Say ‘Average’?

Oh, come on, Beeb – can’t you write headlines better than that? “‘Men cleverer than women’ claim”? “Academics in the UK claim their research shows that men are more intelligent than women.”? Come on – pull your socks up, or get on your bike, or something.

A study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology says that men are on average five points ahead on IQ tests.

Hello? That’s not the same thing as saying ‘men are more intelligent than women’? At all? Surely, surely, you know that, if you think about it for five seconds. Think of the stupidest man you know. Now think of the cleverest woman you know. Is he more intelligent than she is? I rest my case.

But, maybe they really don’t know that. It is a common mistake. I heard Andrew Marr make it a few months ago, and he’s not thick – in fact he’s probably one of those men who are more intelligent than quite a few other men. But he said to Steve Pinker on ‘Start the Week’ that Larry Summers had said ‘men are better at science than women.’ I let out one of those exasperated whines one does let out when hearing people say stupid things on major media outlets: ‘That’s not what he said!’ and Steve Pinker said wearily, ‘That’s not what he said.’ But if Marr got it wrong, the chances are that most people get it wrong. The comments on that BBC article seem to confirm that, too – hardly anyone points out the mistake.

That’s quite tragic, really. It could mean that most people actually do think that all men indeed are more intelligent than all women. How depressing.

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